The Entrepreneur: Steve Folwell, LOVESPACE
The CEO of the multi-million pound storage company reflects on mistakes in his early career, the importance of resilience, and his love of duvet days...
Co-founder: Steve Folwell
Description in one line: The UK’s first by the box storage company – we collect, we store and we deliver.
Previous companies: Worked for The Guardian, ITV, McKinsey & Co
12 month target: £5m
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- We are the UK’s first and largest by the box storage company.
- We provide a hassle-free alternative to self-storage.
- We collect storage by the box, for free from anywhere in the UK, so you only pay for what you store, and deliver back to any UK address as soon as the next day.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Persuading an extraordinarily talented bunch of folk to join the madness, and together serving over 35,000 customers.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Three key KPIs:
- New customer sign-ups
- Customer satisfaction scores
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
We have a lot of international customers storing with us in the UK. We do not yet have any international operations but there are exciting plans in the pipeline.
Describe your growth funding path:
We have raised funding from just about everyone; angels, corporates, VCs and the crowd!
We have tended to raise in £1m to £1.5m in chunks and it has enabled us to grow the team, expand our marketing and invest in proprietary tech. The end result is a very supportive and diverse set of investors and supporters who help us with hiring, sales, partnerships and further fundraising.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Our own in-house tech has made the biggest difference and by far the biggest, and most important decision, we made was to invest in in-house technology unlike others in this industry.
Our team have developed apps for our customers, drivers and warehouses to increase efficiency, scalability and customer satisfaction.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Our vision is to be the first choice for anyone who needs help moving or storing their things.
In practical terms, we would like to achieve over £10m revenue, over 100,000 customers, serve customers all over the world and expand our offering to help people moving home and business fulfilment.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
As part of my brief at The Guardian, I had to take the tough decision to close our last local newspapers in 2011 when a buyer could not be found.
This meant closing titles that had served their communities for hundreds of years and making a team of brilliant journalists and sales-people redundant. It’s a good reminder that for every disruptor, there are many disrupted.
What was your biggest business mistake?
The biggest business mistake I've ever made was during my first ever day at work at a bank. I messed up the Excel and lost the bank £100,000 – I spent the next several years making up for it.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
Generally, I am a fan of red tape because it stops you from making costly mistakes.
However, I would say that Visa applications are increasingly a pain for us as we are keen to build a diverse international team. We worry this will be more of an issue post-Brexit.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Thinking that an idea is a business and that PR is revenue.
How will your market look in three years?
We are pretty convinced that people will continue to be living in ever smaller spaces and still want to own a lot of physical things so storage is going to become more important.
The possibility for growth of traditional storage companies is limited by the constraints of physical space needed in premium locations. LOVESPACE don’t have these constraints and can continue to scale up as demand increases.
At the same time, the demand for convenience continues to grow and people come to expect less hassle and fast delivery and collection. Our service is well placed to meet the needs of these increasingly demanding customers.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Hang on in there; resilience is key.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Bit of both, but mostly on the job.
What would make you a better leader?
Being Brian Clough OBE (ex-England football player and manager)
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
That there won’t be any lie-ins…
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
I can definitely do without both!
I'm currently reading and enjoying Evan Davis’ Post Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It.
LOVESPACE is a Startups Awards winner and took home the title of ‘Crowdfunded Business of the Year' at the Startups Awards 2016. Learn about more about the business and Folwell's success story here.